Good news at last!
Yet another stupid idea, a reflex prompted by sloppy thinking (government-think): the idea that the invasion of the Capitol by the pro-Trump mob is necessarily a lamentable spectacle. If, on the other hand, these images show the grotesque and pathetic end of the inspirer of this savage festival’s ‘Make America Great Again’, and the burial of this America’s conquering arrogance, there is every reason to be delighted. And, conversely, to be sorry that this disorder in the walls of one of the most exposed symbols of this arrogance was so short-lived.
We are not going to shed tears over the ransacking of Ms Pelosi’s office – an exemplary representative of the white and hegemonist US patrichy – by an unleashed horde of plebeians of the same ilk. Let these people solve their problems within their family.
As Jeffrey Sachs noted in a recent article, it is because a pro-Trump fascist mob has this time attacked a high place of white power that we are witnessing this concert of indignation – no matter that similar armed gangs have regularly attacked African-Americans, Amerindians, Mexicans and other Latinos as soon as they try to assert their rights in the face of state violence and white supremacists... and without arousing any particular emotion among the elites who today express their indignation at the recent outbursts.
On the other hand, there is nothing intrinsically repulsive about the idea of storming a high place of power. Quite the contrary, this is inseparable from the memory of the great revolutions – French, Russian, Cuban, etc. So, it is not the storming of the Capitol, in and for itself, that we should deplore; this could be a good way to restart the American revolution, which is sorely needed. Rather because this was the act of a fascist riot. And, however disquieting this might be, it is the state of affairs in this country and, once again, if it could be the prelude to the fall of the American empire (the title of a film by Denys Arcand, 2018), there would be some reason to gloat.
In our societies, where political affects are powerfully harnessed by the media, political machines and the factories of public opinion, ordinary people are constantly conditioned to lament (to experience as misfortunes which affect them personally) the difficulties, failures, annoyances, losses and defeats suffered by those above. On the contrary, people could and should, for their own good, experience a salutary – not necessarily malicious – satisfaction; they should urgently escape emotional contamination in order to reformulate the question on their own terms: storming of the Capitol, why not? – but rather by the Sioux or, say, a coalition of descendants of Sitting Bull, Geronimo, John Brown, Nat Turner, Malcolm X and Emma Goldman!
The capture of the affects of the mass (the population) by the apparatuses of power is a fundamental issue in our present societies. Our rulers govern with revenge (against the target of the day: in our country the Islamist and, increasingly, China or the Chinese) and sorrow. This is the nihilist turn of the government of the living, the human herd. In the face of the present spectacle, the depressed and distressed tone is quite necessary: ‘My God, what a shame, how are such things still possible today, in such monuments of democratic civilisation as our societies?’ – all this hollow rhetoric of desolation, whose primary purpose is to produce a mash of affects in which any sense of difference and opposition dissolves. Why, we ask again, should we join with the apparatuses of power in lamenting the events in Washington, with the high mafia that governs us, the legionnaires of the border police, the dubious divas of Sciences Po?
This affective consensus is never more than the appalled kneejerk reaction of the ideological consensus, whose specific task is to blur the dividing lines between masters and servants, patricians and plebeians, exploiters and exploited – and why should we ignore these dividing lines when we observe the events in Washington and evaluate them according to our position in the overall field of struggle? Why, once again, should what exposes the state of dereliction of US power distress us?
It is not destructive nihilism to rejoice in what weakens the enemy. It is destructive nihilism, and happens constantly and almost automatically, to accept being contaminated by the spirit of lamentation in the face of multiplying signs that indicate the growing incapacity of the masters, the vicars of the global imperial order, to continue to govern the world as before (Lenin). Resisting this contamination and giving vent to our own affects in the face of these signs of crisis is a sign of vitality and a manifestation of autonomy – not a symptom of baseness or a fall into the spirit of vindictiveness, the famous Schadenfreude. Or, if it is nihilism, it is active, positive nihilism, what Nietzsche praised in The Genealogy of Morals, as opposed to the reactive nihilism of today’s decadent elites – the nihilism which invites us to form a chorus of mourners around the events in Washington and lament the loss of meaning and lustre that affects the best of things (‘American democracy’).
The last days of Trump and Pompeo (exquisite pun) awaken all sorts of buried images of a certain white history. The president, half Ubu and half semi-demented ‘Great Dictator’, ends his journey holed up in a White House that has become an operetta variant of the bunker where another illustrious incarnation of the presumptions of white supremacy ended his life on – or rather under – the ruins of the Reich promised to last a thousand years. But the madman in the White House gives us a more modest and less apocalyptic Downfall. On the eve of Biden’s investiture, he will board the presidential plane at the last minute to reach his estate at Mar-a-Lago, where his caddies and clubs await him, and it will all end not in song but in endless rounds of golf with his last followers and minions...
In today’s grotesque forms of sovereignty, everything shrinks, even the apocalypse. A sad and lamentable spectacle, we are told. But not for us, as the brutality of the masters and the rigours of the rules of the game have not yet deprived us of the resources of laughter.
 Jeffrey Sachs, ‘The Truth about Trump’s mob is that it was nothing new’ (Taipei Times, 11 January 2021).
Translated by David Fernbach
Originally published here.